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October 31, 2014

Chair’s Message

James C. Hanks

The leaves are turning color, the air is cool and crisp, and the mountains are majestic. As a part-time travel agent for the City of Denver, I would like to invite you to join us at the Section’s Fall Meeting in beautiful downtown Denver from October 9 through October 12. The meeting will be a combination of cutting edge issues and a retrospective of the nonlegislative efforts of the Obama Administration.

Our new Attorney General and Department of Justice Committee is tackling the challenging issues surrounding the haze of smoke emanating from all of those e-cigarettes. Can they be regulated? Should they be regulated? Come and find out what this “vaping” thing is all about.

And speaking of smoking, what better place to discuss medical marijuana than Colorado? The conflict between federal law and state law sets the table for an interesting discussion of the planning, regulation, conveyancing, property management, financing, banking, and ethical issues generated by the legalization of a substance that is still illegal—at least as far as the federal government is concerned.

The federal government also plays a critical role in another of our programs: “‘Sagebrush Rebellion’—The Impact of Drought on Federal Lands.” The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are dealing with very serious drought issues. Their decisions dramatically affect large numbers of federal land users and, by extension, all of the communities in which they live and do business. The Environmental and Energy Committee and the Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee will share with us what we learned from the courts the last time that we dealt with this issue and what those decisions may mean for the present crisis.

The retrospective portion of the meeting is a look back at the nonlegislative work (litigation, rulemaking, and guidance) of the Obama Administration that affects state and local governmental bodies. The Administration has been active in articulating and advancing an agenda in a number of areas that impact local government: employment (criminal background checks, social media in the workplace, the impact of technology on implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act), education (bullying and sexual violence on campus), municipal finance (noncompliance with disclosure rules), elections (redistricting and campaign finance), and disaster management (climate change, flood insurance and mitigation, and water treatment). The meeting will address all of these issues and will include an incredible group of speakers.

My goals as Chair are few in number but large in import. As a Section, we are very open to active participation by all of our members. One of my goals is to realize an increase in active participation in all committees. If any one of you reading this message has any doubt that there is a home for you in our Section, please write me an email or call me. I promise you that I will find you a home in our Section, and you will be as active as you would like to be.

I also promise that we will do all that we can to improve diversity in all aspects of our Section’s operations. We have made a commitment to minority and specialty bar associations, and we plan to keep it. That commitment is based on substantive actions that all of our committees will take. If you see more that we can do or you want to help us, please write me an email or call me.

Finally, I intend to improve the quality and quantity of singing at all Section Council Meetings and to foster a greater appreciation for the silly side of life. Come to a Council Meeting and see for yourself. If you cannot join us in person, then join us in spirit by celebrating National Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19. This is a day that is dedicated to remembering that life is too serious, too much of the time, and that we owe it to ourselves to be silly—if only for a little while.

James C. Hanks

James C. Hanks is a shareholder in the Des Moines, Iowa, firm of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., and the Chair of the Section.